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Effect of leaf flutter on the light environment of poplars

Abstract

The dynamics of the canopy light environment for two poplar species (Populus tremuloides Michx., and P. fremontii Wats.) were characterized with an array of photocells in fixed positions within the canopy or attached directly to leaves and using a data logger that recorded photon flux density (PFD) at frequencies from 1 to 20 Hz. The majority of sunflecks were short in duration (<1 s) with a similar short interval between sunflecks. Sunflecks contribute as much as 90% of the total daily PFD in the lower canopy. Leaf flutter may cause high frequency (3 to 5 Hz) variations of PFD in poplar canopies. The amount of light intercepted by a fluttering leaf at the top of the canopy decreased with increasing flutter, whereas a fluttering lower canopy leaf showed no such trend. When leaves fluttered at the top of the canopy the understory light environment showed an increased number of shorter sunflecks. Leaf flutter may increase mean PFD for understory leaves. It also creates a canopy light environment that is more dynamic temporally and more evenly distributed spatially. The potential benefits of these changes in light dynamics are discussed.

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Roden, J.S., Pearcy, R.W. Effect of leaf flutter on the light environment of poplars. Oecologia 93, 201–207 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00317672

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Key words

  • Leaf flutter
  • Sunflecks
  • Poplars
  • Canopy light penetration
  • Carbon gain